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The Circle of Reason

3.4 of 5 stars 3.40  ·  rating details  ·  834 ratings  ·  63 reviews
Amitav Ghosh’s extraordinary first novel makes a claim on literary turf held by Gabriel García Márquez and Salman Rushdie. In a vivid and magical story, The Circle of Reason traces the misadventures of Alu, a young master weaver in a small Bengali village who is falsely accused of terrorism. Alu flees his home, traveling through Bombay to the Persian Gulf to North Africa w ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published May 3rd 2005 by Mariner Books (first published June 16th 1986)
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The God of Small Things by Arundhati RoyA Fine Balance by Rohinton MistryThe White Tiger by Aravind AdigaMidnight's Children by Salman RushdieThe Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Best Indian Books
148th out of 595 books — 1,827 voters
The God of Small Things by Arundhati RoyA Passage to India by E.M. ForsterA Fine Balance by Rohinton MistryInterpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa LahiriThe Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling
Books Set in India
244th out of 263 books — 217 voters

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Community Reviews

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If we wait for everything to be right,again,we'll wait for ever while the world falls apart.The only hope is to make do with what we've got. p450

For the extremely challenged characters in this magnificent sweeping epic,the above quote is the theme song of their lives. AG gives us a work that is not only technically amazing,following the form of an Indian raga,but also outstanding in the finely nuanced depth of his characters in his frank but compassionate presentation.

In the end,although we may
Sep 28, 2011 Tracy marked it as to-read
Shelves: didn-t-finish
OMG. I couldn't finish it. Horror of all horrors, I couldn't finish a book by an author that I admire. But I realized what it is. I was struggling with the same thing in 'The Hungry Tide'. Ghosh spends an inordinate amount of time developing characters, their pasts, their little histories, their unique experiences. The plot gets put on hold as we dive (once again) into the history of a newly introduced character and then the anecdote takes you further and further away from the current storyline ...more
The Circle of Reason is the first novel by Indian author, Amitav Ghosh. The story of Nachiketa Bose, known throughout the narration as Alu because of his misshapen head, is related from his arrival at his uncle Balaram’s house in the Bengali town of Lalpukur, when he is orphaned at eight years old. A boy who becomes gifted at languages and a skilful weaver, a cascade of events leads to Alu’s flight across India, into the Middle East and across northern Africa, pursued by a tenacious policeman, J ...more
Rachael Murphy
It has taken me forever to read this book and I struggled to finish it. I truly hate to say it because I love Amitav Ghosh and everything else I have read but I didn't enjoy this. Like his other novels the scenes are perfectly set but the chacaters though well rounded had no background and you were only getting to know them when there storyline ends and you move on to a whole new set of people and another unrelated story. There were certainly elements that were taken the whole way through by way ...more
I think one star is too much for this book. I did not find the point. All the characters are mentally ill, even though the author tries to pass them as normal. I was hoping to at least learn something from the setting and situations. But the characters are so outrageously crazy that I cannot trust any of the situations or the background setting. Don't waste your time.
I loved In an Antique Land, so I had very high expectations for this novel. I found it enjoyable but not nearly as excellent as I expected.
Murali Neelakantan
I wish I had read this book before I read all the others by Amitav Ghosh. It has all the characteristics one has come to expect of an Amitacv Ghosh novel - deep research, great narration with such level of detail that it feels like an impressionist painting, a significant item or thought, The Life of Louis Pasteur in this case, that binds all the main characters who travel through time on their own paths which Ghosh conspires to ensure cross during some time in the story and connections to Benga ...more
Riju Ganguly
This is a strange novel. The narrative is clean & taut. The characters are real, and there is abcolutely nothing fictitious about any of them (I have encountered people like them). The landscape against which these characters & events enact their unique drama of life, love, death, misery, hope and frustration is vast and yet real. There is a connectivity between every two event, and the whole thing indeed makes up a circle, but.... This is pretty unnerving, but the fact is that the only ...more
I took a class with Amitav, but I had never read any of his work up to this point. The novel was both surprising and unsurprising. There were things that I expected from him based on his teaching style and the books that he chose for us to read and some of those expectations were met. His attention to detail was immaculate, though occasionally distracting. On the other hand, my favorite part of the book was a section that recounted the dealings of small character in a short story format. It fit ...more
It was interesting upto a point but then I felt it dragged a bit too long. True to Amitav's style, his characters are well etched, although he has tended to stretch the uni-dimension that he fixates on a little more this time. Clearly an earlier work, you can see his profression from here through to his IBIS trilogy.
Not a terrible book to read but not one that you will miss terribly if you dont come to it.
Liza Daniel
I tried and the end I am tired of reading this book.this is the lousiest book I have ever read in my life.couldnt believe such a pointless novel.i was attracted to the book because of the caption'the circle of reason'.but couldn't find any reason to read further.every chapter has a new character n the description of past of each character is diverting the actual circle of reason.
I wanted to like this book and some parts were exceptional…but I didn't have the patience and fortitude for the meandering storyline…so many characters and so little interest...
Paolo Gianoglio
Mi sono lasciato cullare da questo romanzone, lungo quasi 500 pagine. Non so se sono riuscito a capire tutto quello che Ghosh voleva raccontare, ma poco importa. Ho goduto delle atmosfere, dei personaggi, della geografia, dei racconti nei racconti, della coralità. Ho viaggiato, dall’India all’Algeria, passando per mari e deserto. Ho imparato che lingua e cultura uniscono e dividono a ogni latitudine, che tante storie che noi crediamo tipiche della nostra cultura occidentale sono il frutto di una ...more
This was Amitav Ghosh's first novel, and in this I saw the start of the style which led to the complex intertwining of characters and tales in his more recent books. The story is of a simple boy, Alu, who through circumstance more than anything else comes to be a weaver, then a branded terrorist, a fugitive, a construction labourer and a messiah. The story itself is fairly riveting, as the reader always wants to know what will happen next. Alu and his companions are constantly being pulled into ...more
I've liked Sea of Poppies and River of Smoke so much that I decided to read some early Amitav Ghosh while waiting for the third and last book in the trilogy. While I often need to check out British-use and archaic vocabulary, this book was far less readable for me in that I don't understand what people were thinking and why they did some of the things they did. I know it's cultural, but I think in his more recent books, he has a better editor, and the more recent books read more fluently and cle ...more
The Circle of Reason is divided into three parts, and each section on its own presents a compelling story with a sympathetic protagonist at the center. The problem with the novel as a whole is that the protagonist changes in every section, and the thread that weaves them together is constantly weakened. The only character who carries through the whole book is Alu, a lumpy-headed orphaned boy who grows into a man. Unfortunately he spends much of the narrative as a silent bystander. And other char ...more
The story starts promisingly with an orphaned boy- Alu, who is sent to live with his uncle in a small village with his 'rationalist' uncle who is obsessed with Louis Pasteur, germs and carbolic acid. There are some promising characters like the bird loving police investigator- Jyoti Das, who looks perpetually surprised thanks to his one raised eyebrow. However, the plot has too many characters and their sub plots are too confusing to keep track.As you start relating to the characters, the story ...more
I am a big fan of Amitav Ghosh and I believe he is one of the best Indian writers who write in English. Circle of reason is definitely not his best book but it has his inimitable style and history too it... its a tad bit obscure as the characters are not as strong as his other books !
Read just like a John Irving novel (with fewer bears). I (like the author) lost the thread of the story periodically, but had no trouble picking it back up down the road. I look forward to reading the rest of his books.
Ravi Gupta
interesting read. story was interesting. chracters real. however overall there appears to be too Much sadness and you want the novel to end and this journey to finish.
Jan 16, 2011 Mady rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: bc, 2005
It took me about a month to read this book. The positive thing about having taken this long is that the book was a lovely company through this time as I read something everyday. And it was always hard to stop reading it. Amitav Ghosh is becoming one of my favourite storytellers. I love reading books when I have the feeling that the story is so detailed that it must either be truth or meant a loooot of research done by the author.

This book is about so much that it's hard to sinthetize it. For me,
Amitav Ghosh's First book is an indication of great things to come. The circle of reason does not have much of a story. It has great characters, but the arc of the story is missing unlike the Ghosh that we have come to know. Ghosh has created memorable characters and situations but has failed to string them together in a meaty story (which has now come to be his forte). Had it been any other Author, I would have given two stars. But for Ghosh, whom I absolutely adore, it is three stars.
Nicole Barnes
Amitav Ghosh is a rare breed: he writes history and fiction equally well. In this novel he creates an entire world--a small village in turn-of-the-century India, a local would-be scientist who is in love with phrenology and goes around measuring all the villagers' heads, and a small boy around whom an at turns tragic, hilarious, and profoundly philosophic story turns. I gave it 4 stars because the ending felt a bit stilted to me, but it was still a great read!
Kay Robart
The novel's narrative style is purposefully rambling, running off in delight to tell one fabulous story after another. It is wonderfully well written, beautifully written, but sometimes I wondered where it was going or what the plot actually was. The feeling was only momentary, however, because I was always compelled onward.

See my complete review here:
Ghosh, as always, delivers a solid cast of absolutely intriguing characters, some so full of whimsy that at one point I got a faint sense of Carroll's Alice in Wonderland; the characters become so well developed and become close acquaintances that it is with some wistfulness that I bid them adieu. The story as ever is beautifully scripted and so well drawn out in intricacy and quality.
Started by listening to this on disc while on a long drive, and don't recommend that. At first was bewildered by the demise of main characters and odd trajectories of plot, but ultimately came to embrace it, especially when I stopped the discs and got the book to finish. Not an easy read, and not Marquez, but a fascinating structure and conceptualization.
Sam Flint
I would give this book 3.5 stars if I could. Amitav Ghosh is an amazing storyteller and does an incredible job of conveying the rich details of places and people - but the plot in this (his first novel) didn't feel 100% complete to me. That said, even one of Ghosh's lesser books is far superior to the best novel of most other authors.
Rishabh Verma
This book is like a Led Zep song building up slowly until the end.

"Hope is he new beginning." is the governing principle for all the charecters in this book. Every character, every entity is expertly intertwined with each other in the most subtle ways.

Loved it.
not as enthrailing as his other novels but still an interesting read
Irene Black
This was interesting reading but I think I need to read it again as it is very dense and requires a lot of thought. Although I enjoyed it, I enjoyed the Ibis books more as their settings and the characters gripped my imagination more than these did.
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Amitav Ghosh is one of India's best-known writers. His books include The Circle of Reason, The Shadow Lines, In An Antique Land, Dancing in Cambodia, The Calcutta Chromosome, The Glass Palace, Incendiary Circumstances, The Hungry Tide. His most recent novel, Sea of Poppies, is the first volume of the Ibis Trilogy.

Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta in 1956. He studied in Dehra Dun, New Delhi, Alexan
More about Amitav Ghosh...
The Glass Palace Sea of Poppies (Ibis Trilogy, #1) The Hungry Tide The Shadow Lines River of Smoke (Ibis Trilogy, #2)

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